I am blessed to pastor a small church in the hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania for more than 12 years. This church has been a blessing to me in many ways. I want to share one important way they have supported me, hoping to inspire other churches to do the same: continued theological study.
I will not put a full treatise on the fact that I believe that the pastor’s first job is to study and teach the Word. That will be for another time. However, in Acts 6:1-7 deacons were appointed to do much of the physical labor of ministry, because the elders were starting to neglect their privileged duty to study and teach. Deacons were created – not as much to meet the physical needs of the people – but so that the elders would not have to “give up preaching the Word of God.”
Here are three ways that you can support your pastor theologically, which will in turn, benefit you.
INVEST IN HIS EDUCATION
The first thing you can do is invest in his education. Pastors can study on their own, but if they are given the proper education and tools, they can make better use of their time in study. There are three ways you can invest in his further education.
First, you can set up a book allowance for him. Every pastor should have several commentaries for each book of the Bible. He should also have books on Christian ministry, marriage, counseling, and a variety of theological and doctrinal studies. This is not a cheap endeavor, but it is one you could start tomorrow. If it is not part of your church budget you don’t need to start with $1,000 a year, begin with $100 a year.
Second, you can fund his education through helping him attend seminary. This is certainly a more expensive measure. However, I believe that a church investing in a pastor theologically will see a greater turn on their investment through his ministry and preaching. Also, consider that many seminaries offer a tuition match – if churches invest in their pastors, the seminary will too. If the pastor, seminary, and church team up, this can be a reachable goal.
When I worked on both of my master’s degrees in seminary, I often could also preach the material as well. I would be learning things in the classroom that translated into the sermons I was teaching.
Third, there is a middle ground to the financial investments. That would be to set money aside to help your pastor attend theological and practical ministry conferences. I’ve been to a variety of conferences around the country and have benefited greatly from them. The cost of flights, hotels, and conferences can add up, but it’s a great investment for a pastor who intends to help build up the body of Christ. It’s more expensive than a couple books, but cheaper than a seminary degree.
REALIZE ALL BELIEVERS ARE MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL
I have written on this before: “Every Christian: A Pastor or Priest.” The recap is that when we study Ephesians 4, every Christian is a minister of the Gospel. The pastor’s job is not to minister to everyone, but to train the congregation to minister to others.
If a church allows the pastor to train the people of the church to minister, many more people will be ministered to then if he alone is ministering. How would this help him theologically? If dozens in the church are doing the work of ministry, this gives the pastor time to study. If he has more time to study, he can minister the Word better from the pulpit and train people better for ministry. A church who takes “Every Christian a Pastor or Priest” seriously will free the pastor to study, and in turn, be better trained to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”
The last way you can support your pastor theologically is to let him place the Gospel as first priority as stated in I Corinthians 15:3-6. Churches of the last century often became inward focused and only believed that theology mattered, neglecting serving others. Recently there are churches who have put too much stock into social work.
The problem is that as the pendulum swung to the other extreme, churches found themselves involved in so much social work that they neglected the most important thing in their church, the Gospel. Churches have been so fixated on feeding the poor and helping the needy that they neglected the Gospel itself. Once the Gospel is neglected, it is hard to put it in its proper place again.
The question that needs to be asked: “Is our pastor’s first job to be a student and teacher of God’s Word or to do social work within our community?” Many churches haven’t even realized how much they have placed on their pastor in regards to social work. The church serves, not first out of what is needed, but out of the basis of the cross. If you remove the cross, then the church becomes another social club.
With many tasks like leading meetings, organizing, directing individual ministry, and daily administration, your pastor has a lot on his plate. You must protect his time for theological study.
Many times people, with a great heart, want to add more social programs or ministries, which seem like great ideas. But they do not consider the toll it could take from the pastor’s study time. What would seem like a win in the long run may eventually be the downfall of the church. Make sure that you are not expecting so much of your pastor in community involvement, whether individually or corporately, that he would have to neglect the ministry of study and teaching the Word to do so.
How does your church support your pastor theologically? What kind of support have you given him in your budget to continue in his study of the Word? What are the expectations of the people in the church for him in individual ministry, or do people look to be equipped in order to minister to others? Do you let social work or ministries overtake your ministry, or do you give your pastor the majority of his time to study the Word?
I want to close by saying I am very appreciative of my current church family. I think the majority of them understand the theological needs of the church and my role as pastor. I hope you will share this in honor of your pastor.
For further study and discussion on this, let me recommend, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, by Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons atwww.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP oniTunes orGoogleplay.